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EVGA Geforce GTX 570 Superclocked Review

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SKYMTL

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In the month leading up to the usual Christmas rush, everyone was convinced that the end of 2010 would belong to AMD. They had their HD 6800 series already launched and the enthusiast targeted HD 6900 series had almost arrived while the competition was only supposed to launch their refreshed cards in the first quarter of 2011. Well, NVIDIA surprised everyone by releasing two GF110-based cards: the GTX 580 and GTX 570.

These two new products used a slightly revised Fermi architecture in order to deliver significant improvements in their clock speeds, power consumption, thermal output and acoustical footprints when compared to the outgoing 400-series. AMD suddenly found their HD 6970 competing against a card which was quickly discontinued (the GTX 480) while the HD 6950 has fared a bit better even though NVIDIA has a return salvo already loaded and ready to fire against it.

Naturally, the GTX 570 has been uniquely popular with people looking for a near-perfect balance of price and performance in the high end market and NVIDIA’s board partners have been rushing to produce their own versions. EVGA was one of the first on the scene with the usual Super Overclock model which uses the reference design but comes packing higher clock speeds as well as access to their lifetime warranty program. Custom software programs like Precision and OCScanner are also included via downloads so it should be possible to push this card even higher than EVGA’s chosen clock speeds. You get all of this for about $20 more than the reference version which amounts to around $370 USD.

The GTX 480 and GTX 470 were quite popular but unfortunately pre-overclocked versions were severely curtailed by thermal and power limitations. The GF110 rectifies some of these issues and the result has been a resurgence in higher performing, custom products. The EVGA GTX 570 Superclocked is just one of many but it will nonetheless be interesting to see just how much more performance it can really deliver.

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SKYMTL

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GF110; Something Old, Something Borrowed….

GF110; Something Old, Something Borrowed….


At the heart of the GTX 500-series beats a revised GF100 core which has been christened GF110 for this somewhat new generation of products. Since most of the features are the same between the two cores, we invite you to visit our dedicated GF100 article where we go into all of the advancements the Fermi architecture brings to the table. This section meanwhile will used to discussing the new items NVIDIA has built into the GF110 which allow it to outpace the older series on a number of levels.

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One of NVIDIA’s main focuses for the GF110 was to increase the overall performance per watt over past iterations of Fermi. As it stood the GTX 480 was and still is a massively powerful card but it hit up against a power consumption wall due to a number of inefficiencies within the architecture.

To address some of the inherent power consumption issues Fermi exhibited, NVIDIA basically rearranged their layout so more of the faster, higher leakage transistors were placed on the critical rendering paths instead of being used for periphery tasks. Meanwhile, the slower low leakage transistors were placed where speed wasn’t a primary concern.

Strategically distributing the transistors in this way allows for a small speed-up in overall rendering performance. More importantly it also means the fastest transistors will now be fully utilized instead of being used for non critical tasks and thus lowering overall performance per watt.

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From a high-level architectural standpoint, not much has changed between the GF100 and the GF110. The layout still features 512 CUDA cores, 64 Texture Units, 48 ROPs and six 64-bit GDDR5 memory controllers along with a hefty count of 3 billion transistors.

Where the GF110 differs from the GF100 is its ability to feature higher clock speeds while enabling all 16 Streaming Multiprocessors without pushing astronomical power consumption figures. This means the flagship GTX 580 will finally feature the full 512 cores many were hoping to see from the GTX 480 while the GTX 570 will have a single SM disabled.

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By enabling this extra SM, the higher end GTX 580 gains more than just 32 CUDA cores. Four additional texture units along with their associated cache structure are also added to the equation but the most important addition-for DX11 apps at least- is the single PolyMorph Engine which is attached to the SM. The extra tessellator contained in this unit could go a long way towards helping out with the higher tessellation workloads which second generation DX11 games will feature.
 

SKYMTL

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…And Many Things New

…And Many Things New


While NVIDIA was prioritizing critical rendering paths with higher speed transistors, some additional improvements were made to the underlying Fermi architecture as well. Most of these were relatively minor in the grand scheme of things but when compounded they can lead to some impressive performance increases in certain scenarios.

While the GF100 architecture fully supported FP16 HDR texture formats, the GF110 now has the capability to process these textures at a higher throughput. With this “full speed” FP16 texture filtering, the TMUs within cards like the GTX 580 are able to operate at a slightly higher efficiency than the previous generation.

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In addition to the increased FP16 performance, two other areas were prioritized: z-cull efficiency and the L1 cache. An overall bump in z-cull efficiency will mean quicker processing of certain draw calls which are sent through the GF110’s Raster Engine. In addition, the 64KB of shared memory and L1 cache now has additional configuration options which can in theory augment texture performance by speeding up the texture units’ communication with the rest of the rendering pipeline.

Some may remember that NVIDIA’s GF104 core handled instructions in a slightly different manner than the higher end Fermi GPUs. This was mostly due to the larger number of cores per Streaming Multiprocessor. However, since the GF110 maintains the same 32 cores per SM, it maintains the same instruction issuance as the GF100.

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GTX 580 performance increases illustrated for demonstration purposes only​

All of the advances we have been talking about can amount to some significant improvements in framerates across a cross section of games. Since the architectural enhancements are specifically targeted to certain areas of the rendering process, the impact they have varies from one game to the next. However, in DX11 apps or games that use a large amount of texture data, the focus upon high level geometry performance does prove to be beneficial.

The focus upon transistor layout also allowed for higher clock speeds so when the butcher’s bill is tallied, some games can see a performance jump of about 30%.
 

SKYMTL

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NVIDIA’s Focus upon Acoustics and Heat

NVIDIA’s Focus upon Acoustics and Heat


One of the main critiques leveled against the GF100-based cards was their rampant heat production leading to high fan speeds. Using a GTX 480 in particular was never what we would call a completely silent experience but many of the critiques were blown a bit out of proportion in our opinion. Nonetheless, NVIDIA went back to the drawing board in order to completely redesign their high-end cooling solutions in order to focus upon lowering heat and shrinking the acoustical profile of their flagship products.

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The first step was to discard the inefficient and massive heatpipe setup which came with the GTX 480. The replacement is a vapor-chamber cooler that quickly whisks away heat from the core in order to distribute it evenly across a large aluminum fin array.

A vapor chamber design is broken into a number of components. There is a copper base-plate that makes direct contact with the core so the water contained therein will quickly vaporize on the evaporator and make its way through the chamber to the condenser. The condenser wick is placed up against the upper cover in order to disperse the heat generated as the hot water vapor condenses. Finally, there is a transportation wick for liquid return that is used to move the condensed water back to the vaporization wick. Think of this like a massive flat heatpipe which is infinitely more efficient at dispersing heat over a large surface area.

In order for this method to be effective, the entire chamber needs to be sealed and put under vacuum. This is due to the fact that water vaporizes much easier in an environment with extremely low air pressure. Thus, it is very important that a vapor chamber cooler is well made without any manufacturing defects or the air pressure within the vapor chamber will decrease and this will result in lowered heat dissipation capabilities.

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Other than the custom vapor chamber, there are additional features packed into the GTX 580 what are used to lower its overall noise profile.

Through testing, NVIDIA found the GTX 480’s fan had blades that were vibrating slightly which created certain tonal characteristics that could be annoying to some people. To rectify this, a tension ring was added around the fan’s edge and hub’s bottom was filled in to reduce friction. The whole setup was then placed closer to the fin array to allow the fan to spin at lower speeds when pushing cool air into the heatsink. For SLI systems, a small indent was added shroud’s rearmost portion which should allow for slightly better airflow.

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The result of all these changes is of course a temperature reduction but additional benefits have been reaped in the acoustical department as well. According to NVIDIA, the GTX 500-series will be quieter than the GTX 285 without any sacrifices in the thermal department due to “new” adaptive fan control. Basically, this mean the fan will ramp up in a much more linear fashion rather than the sudden jumps we saw with past cards. Since it adjusts fan speed in real time based on core temperature it never really needs to run at high speeds since temperatures are kept in check from the get-go.

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Most ultra high end cards exhibit absolutely epic power consumption numbers and the GF100 was no different. However, in order to better manage voltage fluctuations and power spikes, NVIDIA has implemented support for real-time monitoring of 12V voltage readings. If the reading on any of the PSU’s rails drops or increases by a set amount, the VRM modules on the card will immediately compensate. This should not only lower overall power consumption but also protect the card against “dirty” power from cheap PSUs.

In addition, the hardware monitoring modules are able to work hand in hand with the GF110 core to dynamically adjust performance to keep consumption within NVIDIA’s specifications. Overclocking won’t be affected by this unless you want to push things to obscene limits with exotic cooling but power “viruses” like Furmark which stress the GPU beyond its design limits will see their effectiveness reduced.
 

SKYMTL

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The GTX 570 in NVIDIA’s Lineup

The GTX 570 in NVIDIA’s Lineup


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With the recently released GTX 580 taking up the flagship role in NVIDIA’s current product stack; it was up to the GTX 480 and GTX 470 to set up shop between the $250 and $475 price points. Below them came the massively popular GTX 460 and of course the rest of the lower end and much more affordable cards. One of the main issues with this approach was the massive gap between the cards allowed AMD to slot their cards into specific portions of the market and sales soared as a result.

Now that NVIDIA has begun rolling out their 500-series, it was only natural that the GF110 core would eventually be adapted for lower price points. The GTX 570 is meant to eventually replace the GTX 470 and its introduction also signals the GTX 480’s demise.

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The GTX 570 is actually quite a bit different from the GTX 580 in a number of ways even though both feature the 3 billion transistor GF100 core. While the GTX 580 comes with the full bore 512 CUDA cores, this new card takes elements from the GTX 480 and the GTX 470 to create a real beast of a product at a relatively low $350 price. Much like the GTX 480, it has one Steaming Multiprocessor disabled which effectively eliminates 32 cores and four texture units. However, due to the higher clock speeds and other architectural improvements of the GTX 570 we should see slightly better performance than the outgoing card in situations that aren’t bandwidth limited.

This card’s high level architecture may be a carbon copy of the GTX 480 but the memory allotment resembles that of a GTX 470 with 1.28GB of GDDR5. This also means a single 64-bit memory controller and one ROP array are also eliminated while the L2 cache count goes down to 640KB.

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To see NVIDIA hitting the $350 price point with a card that should compete blow for blow against the GTX 480 really is a great thing to see. It looks like cuts were made in logical places to bring the overall cost of this card to a point that is more than affordable for the vast majority of gamers.

It should be more than obvious that NVIDIA’s GTX 570 is meant to be a true leader in the price / performance field. However, this does open up a relatively large gap between the two 500-series products while AND will likely be more than happy to fill with the upcoming Cayman cards.

In addition to some great GPU releases, the latter part of this year has also been rife with accusations from both camps regarding image quality, optimizations and other hot topic items. We here at Hardware Canucks have listened to both sides of every argument and for the most part have not been able to replicate any image quality reducing optimizations in the games we use in our benchmarking suite. Granted, these optimizations may still be running even in the games you will see in this review but at not one time did we see a perceptible difference between NVIDIA and AMD cards within any of these games.
 
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SKYMTL

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EVGA’s Warranty, Step-Up and More

EVGA’s Warranty, Step-Up and More


Many of us know EVGA by name since their cards are usually some of the best priced on the market. Other than that, there are several things which EVGA has done to try to differentiate their business model from that of their competition. Not only do they have an excellent support forum and an open, friendly staff but it also seems like they have a love for their products you just can’t find many other places. Passion for one’s products goes a long way in this industry but without a good backbone of customer support, it would all be for nothing. Let’s take a look at what EVGA has to offer the customer AFTER they buy the product.


Lifetime Warranty

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Every consumer wants piece of mind when it comes to buying a new computer component especially when that component costs you a pretty penny. In order to protect your investment, EVGA offers their customers a lifetime warranty program which is in effect from the day you register the card until…well…the end of time. The only caveat is that you must register your card within 30 days of purchase. Even if you forget to register your card within the 30 days necessary to receive the lifetime warranty, EVGA still offers you a 3 year warranty. So as long as you don’t get lazy or forget, consider yourself covered even if you remove the heatsink. The only thing that this warranty doesn’t cover is physical damage done to your card.

Other EVGA products carry different warranty lengths so we advise you to b vigilant as similar products could carry different warranties.

For more information about the EVGAwarranty you can go here: EVGA | Product Warranty


Step-Up Program

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While some competitors used to offer trade-up programs, EVGA will always be known for having the first of this type of program. This allows a customer with an EVGA card to “step up” their card to a different model within 90 days of purchase for cards that have Lifetime Warranties. However, products carrying the basic 3-year warranty only receive entry into the Step Up program once an extended warranty is purchased through EVGA.

Naturally, the difference in price between the value of your old card and that of the new card will have to be paid but other than that, it is a pretty simple process which gives EVGA’s customers access to newer cards. As is usual certain conditions apply such as the cards being in stock with EVGA and the necessity to register your card but other than that it is pretty straightforward. Check out all the details here: EVGA | Step-Up Program


24 / 7 Tech Support

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Don’t you hate it when things go ass-up in the middle of the night without tech support around for the next dozen hours or so? Luckily for you EVGA purchasers, there is a dedicated tech support line which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As far as we could tell, this isn’t farmed out tech support to the nether regions of Pakistan either since every rep we have spoken to over the last few years has had impeccable English. Well, we say that but maybe EVGA hunted down the last dozen or so expats living in Karachi.
 

SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the EVGA GTX 570 Superclocked

A Closer Look at the EVGA GTX 570 Superclocked


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EVGA’s Superclocked edition cards have been known to run the gamut of clock speed increases with some showing impressive gains over reference products while others failed to achieve any meaningful difference. The GTX 570 version lies somewhere between these two extremes with a 67Mhz increase on the core and 100Mhz QDR for the memory. Considering GF110’s overclocking limits, this may sound a bit tame but we have to remember that EVGA also has shoes to fill in their SSC and FTW ranges as well. Nonetheless, we should see some noteworthy performance gains in several applications.

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Packaging for this card is typical EVGA with a standard box along with a cardboard insert which protects the card quite well. Meanwhile, the accessories are all pushed off to the sides so they aren’t running around the box, causing damage.

The accessory lost consists of the usual molex to 6-pin connectors along with a novel mini-HDMI to HDMI 1.3a adaptor.

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The GTX 570 Superclocked is completely based off of the reference design but as usual, EVGA applies their custom stickers and that’s about it. The card’s length is 10.5” which means it shouldn’t have an issue fitting into every one of the cases currently on the market.

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The reference GTX 570 has a pair of SLI connectors which can be used to daisy chain three cards together for some impressive performance increases. Right above these is a small grille helps exhaust heat and improve internal airflow.

Even though EVGA’s card is overclocked, it still makes do with a pair of 6-pin power connectors placed at a right angle to the PCB.

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Output connectors consist of….you guessed it; a reference layout consisting a pair of DVI outputs running hand in hand with a mini-HDMI.
 

SKYMTL

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Test System & Setup

Test System & Setup

Processor: Intel Core i7 920(ES) @ 4.0Ghz (Turbo Mode Enabled)
Memory: Corsair 3x2GB Dominator DDR3 1600Mhz
Motherboard: Gigabyte EX58-UD5
Cooling: CoolIT Boreas mTEC + Scythe Fan Controller (Off for Power Consumption tests)
Disk Drive: Pioneer DVD Writer
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB
Power Supply: Corsair HX1000W
Monitor: Samsung 305T 30” widescreen LCD
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate N x64 SP1


Graphics Cards:

EVGA GTX 570 Suerclocked
NVIDIA GTX 570
NVIDIA GTX 580
NVIDIA GTX 480 (Ref)
NVIDIA GTX 470 (Ref)

ATI HD 5970 2GB (Ref)
ATI HD 5870 1GB (Ref)
ATI HD 5850 1GB (Ref)
ATI HD 6870 1GB (Ref)
ATI HD 6850 1GB (Ref)



Drivers:

NVIDIA 263.09 WHQL
NVIDIA 260.99 WHQL (400-series)
ATI 10.12 Beta RC2


Applications Used:

3DMark 11
Aliens Versus Predator
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
DiRT 2
F1 2010
Just Cause 2
Lost Planet
Metro 2033
Unigine: Heaven


*Notes:

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT OUR BENCHMARKING PROCESS PLEASE SEE THIS ARTICLE

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 3 benchmark runs

All game-specific methodologies are explained above the graphs for each game

All IQ settings were adjusted in-game
 

SKYMTL

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3DMark 11 (DX11)

3DMark 11 (DX11)


3DMark 11 is the latest in a long line of synthetic benchmarking programs from the Futuremark Corporation. This is their first foray into the DX11 rendering field and the result is a program that incorporates all of the latest techniques into a stunning display of imagery. Tessellation, depth of field, HDR, OpenCL physics and many others are on display here. In the benchmarks below we have included the results (at default settings) for both the Performance and Extreme presets.


Performance Preset

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Extreme Preset

EVGA-GTX-570-31.jpg
 

SKYMTL

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Aliens Versus Predator (DX11)

Aliens Versus Predator (DX11)


When benchmarking Aliens Versus Predator, we played through the whole game in order to find a section which represents a “worst case” scenario. We finally decided to include “The Refinery” level which includes a large open space and several visual features that really tax a GPU. For this run-through, we start from within the first tunnel, make our way over the bridge on the right (blowing up several propane tanks in the process), head back over the bridge and finally climb the tower until the first run-in with an Alien. In total, the time spent is about four minutes per run. Framerates are recorded with FRAPS.


1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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2560 x 1600

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